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Nagatani, Onosai & '55 Football Team Inducted Into 2006 University of Hawaii's Sports Circle of Honor

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Honolulu, Hawaii (February 28, 2007) - A statistician/donor, a former football player and a football team of 52 years ago are the latest inductees to the 2006 University of Hawaii Sports Circle of Honor.

Toshio “Bob” Nagatani, Joe Onosai and the 1955 U.H. Football team were announced as the U.H. Circle of Honor inductees at a media luncheon today hosted by Bank of Hawaii, founding sponsor of the event.

This is the 25th group to be enshrined, a tradition started in 1982 when the bank and U.H. partnered to recognize individuals and teams that have contributed to the growth, history and tradition of U.H. sports.

These three will be formally inducted into the Circle of Honor at halftime of the UH vs. University of Idaho men’s basketball game tomorrow at the Stan Sheriff Center. They will also be honored at a reception prior to the game, hosted by Bank of Hawaii.

The total number of inductees in the Circle of Honor is 79, including the recent three honorees. Eight teams have also been enshrined. Plaques honoring the individuals and teams are anchored on the inner walls surrounding the main concourse of the Stan Sheriff Center.

Brief biographies of the 2006 U.H. inductees are listed below:

Toshio “Bob” Nagatani, who came to Hawai‘i after graduating with honors in1961 from Harvard, was honored for his generosity and his 40-year relationship with the athletics department as chief statistician for football and men’s basketball.

The native of Chicago, Ill., fell in love with the islands when he enrolled at U.H. as a graduate assistant in sociology, teaching an introductory course. He was approached by one of his students to help with football publicity and compile game statistics.

Through the years, Nagatani delved into a variety of roles including jazz musician, canoe paddler, baker, record producer, video producer and beach boy concessionaire. He even left the islands in the ‘70s to try to become a cowboy.

Realizing the need for an academic center at U.H., Nagatani stepped forward and donated $1 million for the establishment of the Nagatani Academic Center. It is named for his parents, mother Chika and father Hisazo, who owned an Orient art dealership in Chicago.

He died unexpectedly less than a year ago, seven months shy of his 68th birthday. His widow, Patricia, and son, Anthony, accepted the award in his name.

Joe Onosai, a product of Kuhio Park Terrace, won all-star honors as a running back for Pac-5. He attended U.H. and played on the offensive line, winning Honorable Mention All-America honors. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys but saw his career end as a result of a neck injury.

He returned to the Islands and won success in the World’s Strongest Man competitions and World Power-lifting Championships.

Onosai formed support groups to help youngsters, ex-convicts, former drug addicts and gang members, and worked to help turn their lives around.

He currently serves as the pastor and athletics director at Word of Life Academy where he is also a football and track coach.

The 1955 football team had one of its worst defeats and greatest wins in less than a year, against the same team. Nebraska came to town in November 1954, and romped over the Rainbows, 50-0. In September 1955, head coach Hank Vasconcellos took 25 players to Lincoln, Neb., to face these same Cornhuskers. A 60-point underdog and, as one newspaper put it, Nebraska was set to “scrimmage” Hawai‘i before its encounter with Ohio State the following week.

But in stifling heat, Hawai‘i dominated most of the game and scored mid-way through the final quarter to win 6-0. This has been called by many as the biggest road upset in school history.

Nagatani and Onosai are the 70th and 71st individuals to be inducted into the UH Sports Circle of Honor. The 1955 football team is the eighth team to be honored.